The 411 MMA Top 10 09.02.13: Top Ten UFC Lightweight Title Fights
Posted by Alex Rella on 09.02.2013
From Frankie Edgar's battles with Grey Maynard and BJ Penn vs. Diego Sanchez to Sean Sherk's fight with Kenny Florian and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 UFC's Lightweight Title fights of all time!
The UFC's Top Ten Lightweight Title Fights
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. I hope everyone's week wasn't as hectic as mine, but anyway this week we look at the top ten UFC lightweight title fights. There have been now six champions and nineteen title fights to take place in the UFC since it's inception in 2001. The UFC's lightweight division has consistently been one of it's best and almost all of the 19 fights have been great. This week's list is based on fight quality, then the significance of the fight, and some of my personal opinion to close it out.
• BJ Penn vs Caol Uno UFC 41- The Prodigy took on Caol Uno for the first time at UFC 34. It took Penn only 11 seconds to knock him out then. This time they met in the finals of the mini tournament to decide the UFC's new lightweight champion. Uno was much more well prepared in this one as the fight was the opposite and went the full five rounds. This was a well paced strategic fight with some nice work on the ground. The fight ended up going to a draw which caused the UFC to suspend the lightweight division which later caused Penn to compete in the larger divisions.
• Benson Henderson vs Gilbert Melendez UFC on Fox 7- A big fight as the UFC champ took on longtime Strikeforce champion Melendez on Fox. A very close fight as Henderson won by split decision. A pretty good fight, but not a great one.
• Frankie Edgar vs BJ Penn UFC 112 &118- Two pretty good fights as there was a passing of the guard in the UFC's lightweight division. The first one was pretty close, but Edgar was the clear winner in the second as he started his own nice title run.
10: BJ Penn vs Diego Sanchez UFC 107
Some people really love this fight, but I always thought it was a pretty one sided beat down. BJ Penn took on Diego Sanchez in his third title defense and the Nightmare got wrecked pretty good. Sanchez was looking pretty good leading up to the fight too. He had defeated Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida since dropping down to lightweight. Penn rocked Sanchez hard in the first round and the fight was almost stopped but Sanchez was able to recover. Then he just got dominated for the next three rounds. Penn picked him apart with strikes while defending 27 takedown attempts. The fight was finally stopped in the fifth round by the doctors when Penn connected with a high kick that busted Sanchez up above his left eye.
9: BJ Penn vs Kenny Florian UFC 101
This was a very important fight for both men and the lightweight division at the time. Not only was Kenny Florian a top lightweight, but this was Penn's first fight since unsuccessfully moving back up to welterweight to challenge GSP for his title. Penn looked unstoppable at lightweight before the move so it was interesting to see if he could return to form after his loss. This was Florian's second title shot after losing to Sean Sherk three years earlier. Florian had won six straight since the Sherk loss and posed a legitimate threat to Penn. Florian tried to win several different ways, but Penn just outstruck him and negated all of Florian's takedown attempts. Penn took Florian's back in the fourth round and submitted him with a rear naked choke for his second title defense.
8: BJ Penn vs Joe Stevenson
In his second fight since returning to the lightweight division, BJ Penn took on Joe Stevenson for the vacant UFC lightweight championship at UFC 80. Seconds into the first round, Penn knocked down Stevenson with a right hand. Then it took one elbow that wasn't even that powerful to cut Stevenson near his hairline. Stevenson's face was soaked in blood by the end of the round. They tried to patch him back together in between rounds, but it didn't work too well. Stevenson realized that the fight might get stopped soon so he fought much more aggressively. Understandable way of thinking, but he lost by rear naked choke anyway. Penn licked the blood off his gloves to celebrate while Stevenson cried. So Penn became only the second fighter in the UFC to hold titles in two different weight classes. Stevenson was never the same fighter afterwards either. He said the experience left him disturbed, I've never been covered in my own blood but I'm sure it's not a fun experience.
7: Anthony Pettis vs Benson Henderson UFC 164
I think almost everyone was expecting another great five round fight, instead we got one round of exciting action and I think I prefer it that way. It was a nice change of pace for a UFC lightweight title fight as every other one since 2009 has at least reached the fourth round. This rematch was three years in the making since the WEC's last event. Pettis won the first one by decision after the most amazing kick ever. Since then, Henderson defeated all of the top lightweights in the world, while Pettis worked hard to get himself back into title contention after an untimely loss to Guida and a couple injuries. This time Pettis went to work with body kicks and submitted Henderson with an armbar. I know I didn't see that coming, but it was a nice surprise.
6: Sean Sherk vs Kenny Florian
This bloody fight had two of my favorite fighters going for the UFC lightweight championship. I've talked about this fight before and I admit I might be a little biased as it is one of my favorite fights. The UFC decided to bring back their lightweight title in 2006. The first UFC lightweight title fight since 2003 happened at UFC 64 with Kenny Florian taking on Sean Sherk. This was Florian's first title shot and Sherk's second after unsuccessfully challenging Matt Hughes for the welterweight title. Florian busted Sherk open early on in the fight with an elbow. By the end of the fight Sherk, Florian, and the octagon were all covered in Sherk's blood. Ironically Sherk's blood got in Florian's eyes more than his own. Sherk controlled Florian for the five rounds, but it was still a fun fight. Some have criticized Florian saying he tried to win fights just by cutting his opponents but I think that's unfair. The guy just has really sharp elbows.
5: Benson Henderson vs Frankie Edgar UFC 144
Frankie Edgar finally finished his trilogy with Gray Maynard and moved on to defend his title against Benson Henderson in Japan at UFC 144. The former WEC lightweight champion earned his title shot after defeating Clay Guida in 2011. Edgar was undersized yet again in this fight but he made it a battle. Henderson inflicted the most damage in the second round with a nice up kick that sent Edgar to his knees. The fight was exciting to the finish as both guys just kept going. Henderson would win by unanimous decision, but there were those that thought Edgar won, so we got the rematch at UFC 150. I thought the first fight could have gone either way, but Edgar definitely won the rematch. I'd like to see a third fight, but it's doubtful with Edgar at featherweight.
4: BJ Penn vs Sean Sherk UFC 84
This was billed as the biggest fight in the history of the UFC's lightweight division and this was very true at the time. Sherk became lightweight champion when the UFC brought back the title in 2006. Sherk only defended his title once as he was stripped of it after testing positive for a banned steroid. Penn won the title while he was suspended and Sherk would end up being his first title defense. Sherk only attempted to take him down in the first round which was successfully defended by BJ Penn and the rest of the fight was spent standing up. Penn used his reach advantage to out box Sherk for three rounds. Sherk was a pretty good striker and I understand Penn had a great takedown defense, but I don't know why an accomplished wrestler like Sherk wouldn't try to take Penn down more than once especially when he was losing standing up. At the end of the third round Penn hit Sherk with a punch that sent him falling back to the cage. Penn followed this up with a flying knee that ended it for the Muscle Shar, Penn then got in a few more punches before the round ended. Penn knew it was over and the fight was called before the fourth round could start.
3: Jens Pulver vs BJ Penn UFC 35
Two pioneers in the early days of the lightweight division, BJ Penn and Jens Pulver fought for the first time at UFC 35. Penn was 3-0 at this point and Pulver was coming off his first successful title defense against Dennis Hallman. Penn came out to an early lead in the first two rounds as he took Pulver down multiple times and dominated on the ground. The second round ended Pulver locked in a painful armbar that his arm hyper extended pretty bad. Pulver turned it around though as he defended Penn's takedowns and scored some of his own. The two fighters just unloaded on each in the fifth round as the entire round was spent striking. Hallman rocked him hard a few times as we won by majority decision. This was the best of Pulver's career and his final title defense before leaving the UFC.
2: Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard UFC 136
UFC 136 was a stacked show loaded with quality fighters. It had Brian Stann, Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Joe Lauzon, Anthony Pettis, Melvin Guillard, a featherweight title fight, and the final fight in the Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard trilogy. The second fight at UFC 125 ended in an epic draw and the rematch was scheduled for UFC 130 in May 2011. Both fighters would get injured and the fight was postponed until UFC 136 in October. The first round was similar to their second fight as Edgar got the crap beat out of them as Maynard won 10-8, but Edgar would come back and win the next two rounds. Then Edgar would knockout Maynard in the fifth to retain his title and give Maynard his first official loss. This was a great fight and a nice follow up to their amazing second fight. They're still tied at 1-1-1 so this is one of those rare cases where you actually want to see a fourth fight between two fighters.
1: Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard UFC 125
Best draw ever. The Answer and The Bully's second fight takes the top spot this week as they had the best 155 pound title fight in the UFC. Both fighters were undefeated when they first met in 2008 at UFC Fight Night 13. Maynard won by unanimous decision as he was the clear dominant fighter, but Edgar has stated that it was the turning point in his career and it's hard to disagree. Edgar would go on to win the lightweight title from BJ Penn at UFC 112 and defend it in the rematch at UFC 118, Maynard would defeat Kenny Florian in a number one contender fight in the same night. The rematch would take place at UFC 125 and would be one of the best fights of all time. Maynard pummeled the puss out of Edgar in the first round and it looked like he was going to end it there, but Edgar found a way to survive. Edgar came back in the second to out strike Maynard and scored a big slam. The rest of the fight was razor thin close as it would end in a split draw 46–48, 48–46, 47–47. Fight of the Night and of the Year. Truly one of the best fights ever and one I never get tired of watching.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fight out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Next week I'll rank the best journeymen of all time.